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Dr Michael Kelleher in his surgery at Lahinch. Photograph by John Kelly

Clare doctors in the frame for remote consulting

THE use of remote consulting has become more important for Clare’s family doctors during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

While remote consulting will not work for every patient, Doctor Michael Kelleher has acknowledged it is very beneficial to be able to see a patient on video and establish whether they are unwell and discuss their concerns.

“Covid-19 has forced doctors to use remote consulting in a way you don’t have much choice but to use it. It is a very welcome development but it has its limitations.

“It is very useful in scenarios where a doctor and a patient know each other very well and where the consultation doesn’t need a hands-on examination.

“It is very useful for reviewing patients you have already seen them, know them very well and have their medical record, which in most cases is electronic.

“There is a big difference between a doctor dealing with a patient he knows well remotely compared to logging on to some fairly anonymous scenario,” he said.

The Lahinch-based GP stressed there are certain cases such as a query of appendicitis requires a physical examination.

While Dr Kelleher uses remote consulting a few times a day, he doesn’t see it replacing face-to-face consultations in surgeries, which will always be a central part of general practice.

Describing this technology as a very “welcome tool” for family doctors once strict protocols are in place for its use, he admitted it has a good deal to offer.

It is essential to have good quality broadband and cameras to ensure remote consulting is effective.

Doctors also apply certain strict clinical protocols to make sure once this way of consulting with a patient is appropriate.

While Dr Kelleher has used this technology, he doesn’t describe himself as a pioneer and is a relative novice to some of it.

He described the introduction of the smartphone with high resolution cameras as transformative in general practice as general practitioners were now using multiple applications for more than a decade.

He said there are a number of dedicated healthcare platforms that family doctors can use such Nuahealth, whats app and Face time for patients that are well known to the practice.

Doctors can also send prescriptions electronically and information through secure GDPR compliant emails.

“Remote consulting can save a lot of time for the patient who doesn’t have to travel to and wait to see the doctor. It also saves the doctor time for the same reasons.

“It is extremely useful if a person can send you a photograph of a particular condition with the patient’s consent through healthmail. This can help a doctor to make a very informed decision on how he might manage the situation.

“Patients have sent us video and audio clips of a child with a groupy cough. I had seen the child the previous day so I was able to say the child is better or not worse.

“In another case, parents videoed what they feared might be a seizure but it was actually a mannerism. That child didn’t need a referral where as previously because it was unwitnessed and there was no record you had to give the benefit of the doubt and refer the child onwards to a paediatrician in Galway, which involves significant outlay and expense.

“It is not my camera that matters, it is the patient’s because they don’t really need to see me,” he explained.

 

Dan Danaher

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